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10 common rashes in children

Mum putting cream on a baby in a nappy
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Just like yours, children’s skin can be troublesome. Whether that’s a skin condition like eczema or a rash, we know you might be worried about any unusual redness, bumps or dryness on your children’s skin. Here we share the most common children’s skin rashes, what to look out for and what you can do to help.

Whilst many rashes are nothing to worry about, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention if your child also seems unwell and shows any symptoms of meningitis such as a stiff neck, sensitivity to light or a rash that doesn’t fade when a glass is pressed against it.

What causes rashes in children?

From viruses and allergic reactions, to heat and skin conditions there are several common causes of rashes in babies and children. These include:

  • Allergies
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Parasites
  • Chafing or rubbing e.g. nappy rash
  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Viruses
  • Heat
  • Moisture and heat
  • Dribble

Heat rash

Image of a heat rash

Heat and sweat can cause small red, raised spots known as ‘prickly heat’ or heat rash. It can also cause an itchy or prickly sensation as well as mild swelling, and can occur anywhere on the body.

Heat rash can be caused by:

  • Too much exposure to the sun or heat
  • Wearing too many layers of clothing
  • Engaging in intense physical activity

The symptoms of heat rash are similar to that of solar urticaria, an allergic reaction to sunlight. This is a rare condition so unlikely to be the cause of the rash however if symptoms persist, you should consult your GP. If your child becomes overly tired, dizzy, feels sick or has a high temperature, then they may be at risk of heatstroke. In this case, you must seek emergency medical attention as soon as possible.

How to treat children with heat rash?

A heat rash should clear up without treatment but keeping the skin cool can help. Apply a damp cloth or ice pack wrapped in a towel onto the rash and dress your child in loose clothing. Make sure they avoid scratching it as much as possible and only apply suitable creams such as calamine lotion.

Eczema

Image of eczema on baby

Skin that’s itchy, red, dry and cracked may be eczema. It’s often found behind the knees, elbows and neck, but it can appear anywhere. Read more about eczema in babies here.

Eczema is usually triggered by:

  • Heat or sudden changes to the weather
  • Irritants such as soap, bubble bath or detergent
  • Synthetic fabrics or wool
  • Food allergies
  • Chemicals such as chlorine
  • Bacterial infections

How to treat children with eczema?

Many babies grow out of eczema over time. However unscented moisturiser and eczema treatment such as E45 can soothe the skin. You can also help to prevent it from recurring by avoiding baby soaps and any triggers such as animal hair and certain detergents, and by dressing them in loose cotton fabrics to keep them cool.

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Hives

Close up image of hives rash on skin

A raised, itchy red rash can appear as an allergic reaction often known as hives. It should usually clear up in about two days, however if your child’s face or mouth is swollen or they are struggling to breathe, you must call 999.

Hives are usually caused by:

  • Food allergies
  • Allergic reactions to medication
  • An insect bite or sting
  • Allergic reactions to something your child has touched e.g. plants

How to treat children with hives?

Hives can typically be treated at home with the help of antihistamines. If the rash regularly occurs, then you may wish to see your doctor to test if your child has an allergy.

Roseola

Image of child with roseola

Babies and toddlers can often contract roseola, a contagious infection that can cause both a rash and other symptoms such as:

  • A sudden high temperature
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose, cough and sore throat
  • Swollen eyelids or neck glands

After 3-5 days, a rash will appear consisting of pinkish-red spots, bumps of patches on the chest, belly and back. It may also spread to the neck, arms and face. Whilst it may look concerning, the roseola rash isn’t itchy or uncomfortable - by the time it appears, your child will be well on their way to feeling better.

How to treat children with roseola?

Roseola normally passes within a week and can be treated at home. Let your child rest and encourage them to drink lots of fluids. You can also provide them with children’s paracetamol or ibuprofen to soothe their fever or cold.

Scarlet fever (scarlatina)

Image of child with scarlet fever

If your child has a rash consisting of small, raised bumps that are rough to the touch, this could be scarlet fever. This is a contagious infection that mostly affects younger children.

Symptoms of scarlet fever include:

  • Raised bumps that feel like sandpaper
  • Flu-like symptoms including a fever, sore throat and swollen neck glands
  • A white coating on the tongue following by red little bumps
  • Red cheeks

How to treat children with scarlet fever?

If your child has any of the above symptoms, see your GP for a diagnosis. They will be able to provide antibiotics to help your little one get better. You can also relieve symptoms with children’s paracetamol, calamine lotion and lots of cool fluids.

Chickenpox

Image of child with chickenpox

Chickenpox is a common infection that mostly affects children. The main symptom is an itchy, spotty rash that can appear anywhere on the body including the mouth. These spots occur in three stages:

  • Stage 1: pink or red spots appear on the body, either spreading or staying in a small area
  • Stage 2: the spots become very itchy blisters that may burst
  • Stage 3: the blisters form a scab

Other symptoms can include a fever, aches and pains and a loss of appetite.

How to treat children with chickenpox?

Chickenpox is very contagious so you’ll need to treat your little one at home for at least 5 days after the spots first appear until all the spots scab over. Children’s paracetamol can help with discomfort whilst chickenpox treatments such as cooling gels may ease itching. You can also use socks or mittens to stop them scratching and bathe them in cool water.

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Impetigo

Image of impetigo skin rash

Red sores or blisters could be a sign of impetigo. This bacterial infection typically appears on the mouth, nose, hands or belly. The sores can be itchy or painful and will burst to leave crusty golden-brown patches that may get bigger or spread.

How to treat children with impetigo?

Impetigo isn’t usually serious but should be confirmed by your doctor to receive an antibiotic cream or medicine. It is very infectious so you should avoid touching the rash and keep your child at home until the patches dry out.

Ringworm

Image of ringworm rash on skin

Itchy, ring-shaped patches of skin may be ringworm. This common children’s rash is a fungal infection that causes dry oval patches that may be red, pink or silver in colour. Ringworm is contagious and can even be spread between animals and people, so if you have a pet you may wish to take them to the vet.

How to treat children with ringworm?

You can purchase creams or lotions over the counter to treat ringworm. Pop into your local LloydPharmacy store to pick up treatment. If the rash appears on the scalp, you may also need medicine from your GP.

Erythema toxicum

Image of erythema toxicum rash on baby's head

Erythema toxicum is a common rash that typically appears on babies after birth. Multiple raised yellow, red and white spots can be found on the face, belly, thighs and upper arms.

How to treat children with erythema toxicum?

This type of rash can sometimes disappear and reappear however will usually clear up within a few weeks without treatment.

Keratosis pilaris (chicken skin)

Image of keratosis pilaris skin rash on leg

Small bumps on the skin are a common rash known as keratosis pilaris, or chicken skin. This is a harmless condition that usually appears in patches on the arms, thighs or bottom. It can last a long time and can also be hereditary.

Symptoms can include:

  • Dry, rough textured skin
  • Small painless bumps

How to treat children with keratosis pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris can last for years but sometimes clears up on its own. In the meantime, there are a few things that can help such as having cooler showers or baths, patting the skin dry instead of rubbing and using unperfumed bathing products. You can also use mild moisturisers such as Aveeno Dermexa Emollient Cream for dry skin.

There are many types of children’s rashes that each have varying types of lumps and bumps, so sometimes it can be difficult to work out which kind your child has. If you’re concerned or your little one displays other symptoms such as a fever or lack of appetite, take them to the doctor for a check up.

Discover our range of baby and child skincare products to help soothe symptoms of common rashes. You can also get more tips and advice on your little one’s health such as sun care tips for babies and everything you need to know about the flu jab for children.

References

www.nhs.uk/conditions/rashes-babies-and-children
www.nhs.uk/conditions/roseola
www.nhs.uk/conditions/scarlet-fever
www.nhs.uk/conditions/chickenpox
www.nhs.uk/conditions/impetigo